Did you ever feel surprised realising how photography made great strides, makes use of the latest technologies and little by little supersedes words as if it’s something old-fashioned? Or would you feel more dazed finding out that, really, old darkroom photography as you saw it in war movies is not dead at all?
Born in East London in 1994, Matt Slater revisits old photography techniques mixing it with current technologies, making it possible to bring to life an astonishing visual language that only lives in his photography. I had the chance to have a word with him, discussing his Efflorescent Cherry artwork.
Hi Matt. Looking at your artwork, a few questions came to my mind. First is, secrets are not to be revealed, but still, what was the process that led you to reevoke an old photography style?
I had been using older cameras for a while but only when I was in college did I start printing and experimenting in the darkroom. I appreciated the older photographic processes and materials as they were all so different and have this wonderful sense of physicality to them. One can sense the amount of time it takes to make the work. I feel that these some of these older styles of photography achieve aesthetically and emotionally what I aim to, especially the ageing, imperfections and evoking emotive qualities through the process.
I can see poetry in your artwork. Did you rely on any form of inspiration?
My inspirations vary from photography to music, film and literature. There are people like Sally Mann, Jeff Cowen, Anselm Kiefer, William Basinski, James Leyland Kirby and Brian Eno whose work really resonates with me.
Going against the tide, is that because you can’t find any particular form of art in photography these days? How would you describe it with few words?
I feel like my work is a natural reaction from fast growth of digital technology. The physical medium really helps me explore the themes I’m interested in, both aesthetically and conceptually. I find it very important to have a physical aspect in the process, to have a material that can be created and manipulated by hand. I don’t work exclusively with film or in the darkroom, it’s more of a collaboration between a chemical based process and technological process. It’s a mixture with what I feel each process can add its own characteristic to the artwork.
Has your staying in Cape Town helped developing your sensibility? How would you describe that particular environment?
Cape Town is quite unique as the landscapes in and surrounding can differ quite dramatically. Within a couple hours each way there’s forests, deserts, oceans and mountain ranges. I try to keep things more on the ambiguous side as if the scene could be anywhere while trying to evoke a feeling by creating a space that the viewer can step inside. Art-wise, Cape Town has some great galleries and fairly recently the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opened.
Can you tell the world more about future projects?
I’m planning on launching a new book ‘where the wild flowers grow’ with Quiet Sun Books. And like the last book, I’ll hand make each copy. I’m also in the final stages of a new body of work called ‘Altered Landscapes’ that I plan to exhibit soon.
Thank you Matt.
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
You can find more about Matt Slater here.
Photos courtesy of Matt Slater.